A Brief History of Brentford Library

Five thousand pounds got you a library back in 1902

An Occasional History of Brentford

Visit Gunnersbury Park Museum

Brentford Dock

Boston Manor Park Opens

Depredations of Youths in Boston Manor Park

The Royal Courts of Brentford

Brentford Baths

Visit Boston Manor House

Local Names for Local Buildings

Brentford Elections In The Past

Can You Help Solve A Mystery?

Brentford Pubs and Middlesex Coats of Arms

Brentford High Street As It Used To Be

Rejoicings on Arrival of the Queen in Brentford

Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)

Brentford Electric Theatre, as was

Brentford's War Memorial

A Brief History Of The Q Theatre

Meet Edward Turner, One Of Brentford's Many Heroes

A new acquisition at Boston Manor House

Historical Brentford in photos 

If you have any historical images of Brentford to share, please email them to editor@brentfordtw8.com so they can be added to the photo album. Ownership and copyright will be credited where applicable.

Historical Links

Local history enquiries to localstudies-hct@laing.com

For more local history articles and books see
Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society www.brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk
Brentford town and family history www.bhsproject.co.uk
and Friends of Boston Manor www.fobm.org.uk

Diana Willment, A Life in Brentford

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In 1887 a Libraries Act was passed by the Government which allowed Local Authorities to put 1d in the £ on the rates to finance local libraries.

After initial hesitation in Brentford this was agreed and space for a library was provided in the 18th century Clifden House next to the Methodist Church where the Council had their offices. This was demolished in the 1950s.

In 1889 the job of Librarian was advertised and out of 50 applicants Fred Turner from Wolverhampton was appointed at a salary of £1.10.9d per week until the library was set up and then £1.18.0d or £100pa when it was up and running.

He started collecting books from the Mechanics Institute which had recently closed and from donations from local people. These were not displayed on open shelves as nowadays but had to be ordered from the catalogue and collected for the reader by the librarian. He provided newspapers and started a series of lectures so the library became so popular that within a few years opening hours were extended and an extension was being suggested.

Brentford Library
Brentford Library with Council Offices alongside

In 1902 the Scottish American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie had let it be known that he would provide money for public buildings if local people provided the land and the running costs. He believed in education for all and that if you made money you should spend it for the common good. Fred Turner, as another believer in education, particularly for working people wrote to him and he agreed to provide £5,000 for the library we have now. It was built in the garden of Clifden House.

Laying the foundation stone
The foundation stone was laid by the Countess of Jersey from Osterley on a rainy day in September 1903 and the library was opened on May 9th 1904. Andrew Carnegie actually came to Brentford to perform the opening ceremony and described his journey to Brentford Station as like travelling through the Garden of Eden. I can only think that this was because the fruit trees in the orchards along the line were in blossom. They must have hidden the gas works, the brewery, the tannery and the soap works!

The Great and the Good
"The Great and the Good" - The Library Committee of 1904, taken at the opening.
Andrew Carnegie who gave the money for the building is sitting in the centre with Thomas Layton, the Chairman of the Library Committee on his left. Fred Turner, the librarian is standing between them. Nowell Parr, the designer of the building is behind Fred Turner's left shoulder.

There’s a full description of the events and speeches on the opening day in Fred Turners’s book The History and Antiquities of Brentford which is available to read at the library. It was a day of great local pride and Carnegie must have been impressed as he gave Fred Turner a further £400 to fit out the building.

The story of Fred Turner’s long contribution to the Public Library and Museum has been written by Diana Willment and is available for sale at the Library as is the story of Thomas Layton who was the Chairman of the Library Committee. On his death in 1911 he left his collection of books, maps, coins and other artefacts to the people of Brentford to form this Museum.

But that’s another story……….

Janet McNamara

To see these photos (and others) full size, please visit Historical Brentford in photos

February 3, 2011

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